If we want to live in a world that cures the worst diseases that plague us or use bacteria to create renewable energy sources, we need innovators and entrepreneurs in biology and biotechnology. Today the methods of instruction in pre-collegiate classes fails miserably both at getting students excited about biotech and introducing them to the tools used to invent using biology. Thankfully, a little company called OTYP has created an affordable laboratory course that will make it possible to teach high level biotechnology in every high school in the United States.
As it stands, we need a little boost to convince schools that this more advanced curriculum will get students more excited. That's why OTYP has started the Speak Science Fund, which they hope to get up and running through a Kickstarter project. The SSF allows community members and philanthropists to sponsor bringing our curriculum to their local schools. That way the school can try it out with no strings attached, and if they're convinced by the new way of teaching, they can make it a part of their curriculum. This approach is great because it gives the community a chance to invest in their students' education directly, in a way that they believe will generate real results.
As far as what the students do in the lab course, they take a gene from green glowing jellyfish, and move it into bacteria, using a multi-step process involving Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Ligation, and Transformation. This is the modern version of the same process that was used to make recombinant human insulin, which we use to treat people with diabetes.
The tutorial that students do with the green fluorescent protein gene is a symbol of other things that they can do with biotechnology. Students learn every step of the modern biotech workflow, allowing them to start thinking about new things that they can create with biology. Before someone uses a computer, they have no idea what sort of amazing things can be built using software and the internet. Before doing biotechnology, it's difficult to imagine how powerful a tool our ability to modify the genes of an organism can be.
Learn more and help OTYP in their Kickstarter project.
Follow Jason Silva on Twitter: www.twitter.com/maxandjason